My recent nostalgia soaked breakfasts in Kolkata. Part 1, The luxury chapter. ITC Sonar's Local Love
|My mom would sometimes give us roshogollas |
sandwiched in bread for breakfast when we were young.
In the picture are lovely and warm, winter special
nolen gurer roshogolla served at the ITC Sonar breakfast
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of breakfasts. My day doesn’t start till I have eaten a good breakfast.
Breakfasts, though, didn't feature in K's routine when we first met. After a decade and a half of being married to each other, she has imbibed my love for breakfasts just as I have imbibed her love for dark chocolates. Though she still does have breakfast mainly if we have it together and not otherwise. Most of our dining out occasions these days hinge are around breakfasts outings and we look forward to them.
|We are breakfast people|
Pic: Rukshana Kapadia
I recently wrote an article on Maharashtrian breakfasts for the Jet Wings magazine and then got the idea of starting a series called #FinelyChoppedBreakfasts on Instagram.
|Reading the Maharashtrian breakfast article on the Jet flight to Kolkata|
The millionaire brownie that we picked from the airport Theobroma
to eat in the flight tasted like airline food & is avoidable.
The egg sub was nice.
I start the morning these days by getting up and then sharing some of my favourite breakfast memories over the years in these instagram post. Writing these, often before I have had breakfast, make for a wonderful start to my day of late.
|Have you checked #FinelyChoppedBreakfasts |
on instagram yet? Pic: Rukshana Kapadia
This blog post is about breakfasts too. I am going to tell you about three wonderful Bengali breakfasts that I had during my recent trip to Kolkata.
I won't say that these are tales of dishes that I have grown up on. My mother was more a savoury French toast or toast butter and omelette or cheese sandwich kind of mom after all.
Yet, each of the breakfasts that I had in this trip were filled with nostalgia. And, paradoxically, were occasions to create new and happy memories.
Two of the breakfasts were at the ITC Sonar Hotel, where K and I stayed for a couple of days. A hotel we are both very fond of.
The third was at a shop which I can bet that you have not eaten at, nor heard of, before. Let me keep the suspense going for a while and I will write about that in another post.
If you follow me on instagram, you will know what I am talking of!
It’s a good idea to book a breakfast included package at the ITC Sonar as there aren’t too many restaurants with breakfast options around it. They serve breakfast at the Eden Pavilion at the ITC Sonar, and you can pay and have breakfast there even if not on a package.
The good thing about this breakfast is that they have a section called Local Love which features a few traditional Bengali breakfasts. Having tried some of these in this trip, I can say that the dishes are pretty spot on. On our earlier stays here (this was our third) I have some lovely main meal dishes such as ilish bhaja and bhaapa and alu posto from this section
Ghooghni and bhai fota love
|Koraishootir kochuri and ghoogni for me|
Fried eggs for the Bawi
Orange juice and Sunbean cappuccino for us both
That's the view from our rooms
We wanted to order in breakfast through room service on the first morning. We had landed late the previous night and our dinner in the hotel had got over at midnight. We wanted to enjoy the ITC One room, which we had been upgraded to, before heading out that day.
I called in for a koraishootir kochuri (stuffed mash pea maida pooris), a Kolkata winter specialty, from room service along with alur dom but was told that I could have it with ghooghni. I hadn't had ghooghni in a while so I thought I would choose that.
The kochuris served were spot on, light and crisp, seasoned well. Stayed hot despite being delivered to the room which was great. I have experienced this earlier in other hotels such as the ITC Maratha (hot pooris in room service) and the Oberoi Grand (hot loochis in room service) which is great as cold pooris/ luchis/ kochuris are not as much fun.
I was supremely impressed by the ghooghni. It was very home like, not oily, the flavours were well balance and it had a tantalising, but not overpowering, hint of tanginess to it. It combined very well with the kochuris. The 'motor' (dried peas) used in the ghoogni was cooked well. I have had some ghooghnis in the past elsewhere where this was a problem as they were under-cooked. Here they were soft and not hard, and yet the peas held their form and were not mushy.
Ghooghni is to Bengal, what chhole is to the North of India, a much loved, ubiquitous and ambidextrous side dish.
It is a soupy curry made with dried yellow or white peas. It’s an all purpose dish. It is served in tea stalls at office paras (CBDs) and in office and college canteens too. Often with soft local bakery bread bread, which you dunk into the ghoogni and eat.
|Spotted a local bakery van near Netaji Nagar this time|
I remember the lovely aromas from these local bakeries
Which I'd get while going to play cricket in the fields near by
In Bengali homes, ghooghni can be a day to a day to day dish, as well as a special occasion dish. Often made on Sundays and had with luchis (maida puris).
For some reason my mom didn't make it often. She was more of a rajma, chhole and lobia person. Maybe the result of her having grown up in Delhi.
I still have some fond ghooghni memories from my growing up days in Kolkata though.
This was from bhai fota, the Bengali version of bhai dooj. Our neighbour, Pupai, would give bhai fota to my brother and me, celebrating an age old tradition where sisters would pray for the long lives of their brothers. We would exchange gifts at the end of the ceremony. Chinese fountain pens, Hardy Boys, Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews and pencil box sets.
These was in the 80s and we Bengalis are a scholarly race.
My mother would cook chicken noodles for the occasion. Pupai’s mom would make ghoogni. We didn’t know of the term ‘pot luck’ then but all three of us kids looked forward to the occasion and the food cooked by the two mothers.
Pupai is now an academician in the US. My little brother, who would make faces and giggle through the ceremony then, is a diaper changing and lullaby singing father of a lovable little, payesh hating (more on that story someday), princess.
We all live in different parts of the world now, but come bhai fota every year, Pupai finds out the date and sends an email to my brother and me, wishing us on the occasion.
She did so a month back this bhai fota.
With this breakfast at ITC Sonar, I got to have my bhai fota ghoogni too.
Didu's luchi and shaada alur torkari
|Luchi and alur chorchori at ITC Sonar's Eden Pavilion|
On the second day in the hotel, K and I went to the Eden Pavilion at the ITC Sonar where we met a couple of our new but dear friends Rukshana Kapadia, who blogs and instagram at The Culinary Commentator, and Suneha Saha, for breakfast.
The girls went for eggs - eggs benedict, a runny and a not so runny scrambled egg – which were pretty good and K had liked her fried eggs the day before too.
I said that I’d play the nostalgic expat and have luchi alur dom. The smiling breakfast chef suggested that I have luchi alur chorchori instead. While alur dom (slow cooked garam masala tempered potatoes) is often a special occasion & celebratory dish to be found in restaurants, chorchori is a more home styled one. I was keen to try it out as I have alur dom more often.
The luchis (maida pooris) served were delightfully hot, thin and fulko (puffed) and were pretty perfect over all.
The chorchori surprised me. It was not the turmeric hued, semi-dry dishes with stir fried, vegetables (potatoes in this case) chopped into small pieces, that signified ‘chorchori’ to me
This was my didu’s paatla alur jhol (light potato curry). Also referred to by my blogger friends as shaada alur torkari.
A potato stew-like curry made with salt, kalo jeere (nigella seeds) and green chillies and water, that my didu (granny) used to make for me with luchis when I visited her. She still wants to cook for me, but there is no way I will let her do so with her aches and pains. I would rather go and chat with her when I can and I am sure didu would be happy to know that I am still being looked after the way she would like to. There are variations to the dish. You could add onions if you want. A friend told me she adds heeng. The key is subtlety though. Less is more as western chefs will till you.
Someone on instagram told me recently that what I knew as the alur torkari is also called alur chhokka in north Calcutta and at ITC Sonar, like I said, it's called chorchori.
‘An alur jhol by any name is just as tasty” as the Bard would say if he was Bengali.
Nomenclature quibbles aside, the luchi and alur chorchori at ITC Sonar was definitely ‘didu level’.
My breakfast at Sonar reminded of the lovely kochuri alur dom that I had while staying at the Oberoi Grand in Kolkata sometime back.
I think it's good that luxury hotels are bringing these humble home dishes for their guests.
Ideal would be to have them in someone's home or at a local favourite restaurant I know. Reality is that this is not always possible due to practical issues while travelling.
In such cases, such options make the ‘breakfast included’ packages so much more worth it.
Stay tuned for part 2 and the 'mystery' breakfast place
- Link to the #FinelyChoppedBreakfasts Instagram series
- Local Love is a pan ITC Hotels concept and we have had some lovely local main dishes at the ITC Sonar and Delhi's ITC Maurya and ITC Grand Bharat in the past, and breakfast and mains at ITC Maratha and Grand Central in Mumbai and ITC Chola at Chennai. The breakfast included in our package at Sonar, so I don't know the standalone costs. We were upgraded to an ITC One room
- Post on kochuri alur dom breakfast at the Oberoi Grand
- Recipe post with my interpretation of didu's curry.
- My Maharashtrian breakfasts article